The Indian Air Force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict. It was officially established on 8 October 1932 as an auxiliary air force of the British Raj and the prefix Royal was added in 1945 in recognition of its services during World War II. After India achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, the Royal Indian Air Force served the Dominion of India, with the prefix being dropped when India became a republic in 1950.
Since independence, the IAF has been involved in four wars with neighbouring Pakistan and one with the People's Republic of China. Other major operations undertaken by the IAF include Operation Vijay – the invasion of Goa, Operation Meghdoot, Operation Cactus and Operation Poomalai. Apart from conflicts, the IAF has been an active participant in United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The President of India Pranab Mukherjee serves as the ex-officio Commander-in-Chief of the IAF. The Chief of Air Staff, an Air Chief Marshal (ACM), is a four-star commander and commands the Air Force. There is never more than one serving ACM at any given time in the IAF. One officer Arjan Singh, DFC has been conferred the rank of Marshal of the Air Force, a five-star rank and the officer serves as the ceremonial chief.
In its publication the Military Balance 2010, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) estimates that the Indian Air Force has strength of 127,000 active personnel. However, various reliable sources provided notably divergent estimates of its strength over the years. The air force is estimated to have more than 1,500 aircraft in active service during 2011/2012.